It’s 1953, Aldous Huxley’s in California. He’s close to sixty, a literary man who’s also made a good living as a screenwriter. A friend, one of the “sleuths – biochemists, psychiatrists, psychologists” – has got some mescaline, the active ingredient in peyote. He gives four-tenths of a gram to Aldous and we’re off.
What if you could “know, from the inside, what the visionary, the medium, even the mystic were talking about?” That’s what he’s after.
The mescaline kicks in. Aldous looks at flowers, and the furniture. He looks at a book of Van Gogh paintings, and then a book of Botticelli. He ponders, in particular, the folds of drapery in the pictures.
I knew that Botticelli – and not Botticelli alone, but many others too – had looked at draperies with the same transfigured and transfiguring eyes as had been mine that morning. They had seen the Istigkeit, the Allness and Infinity of folded cloth and had done their best to render it in paint and stone.
Cool. He lies down and his friend hands him a color reproduction of a Cezanne self-portrait.
For the consummate painter, with his little pipeline to Mind at Large by-passing the brain valve and ego-filter, was also just as genuinely this whiskered goblin with the unfriendly eye.
Huxley feels an experience of connecting to “a divine essential Not-self.” Vermeer, Chinese landscape painting, the Biblical story of Mary and Martha, all pass through his mind. William Blake comes up, from him Huxley took his title. Huxley listens to Mozart’s C-Minor Piano Concerto but it leaves him feeling cold. He does appreciate some madrigals of Gesauldo. He finds Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite kind of funny. He’s offered a lunch he’s not interested in, he’s taken for a drive where he “sees what Guardi had seen.”
he comes down.
OK, says Huxley, ideally we’d have some kind of better mescaline that doesn’t last this long and doesn’t cause a small percentage of takers to really spin out. But: we’ve got something here. A possible help on the road to salvation. A substance which allows you to perceive the Mind at Large, to feel the connection to the divine superpower, what he calls in the next essay “out there.”
However, once you go through the Door In The Wall (Huxley credits this phrase to H. G. Wells) you’re not gonna come back the same. You’ll come back “wiser but less cocksure, happier by less self-satisfied,” humbler in the face of the “unfathomable Mystery.”
My friend Audrey who works at the bookstore tells me she sells a lot of copies of this book, mostly to young dudes. The edition I have comes with an additional essay, “Heaven and Hell,” which considers visionary experiences both blissful and appalling, and tries to sort out what we can from them. There’s also an appendix:
Two other, less effective aids to visionary experience deserve mention – carbon dioxide and the stroboscopic lamp.
Huxley finds these less promising.
As part of my Year of Business I’ve been reading lots of investing websites. An area of insane hype at the moment is Canadian marijuana stocks.
(The picks and shovels play here might be stock images of marijuana leaves).
Recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada in October, and unlike the United States, where federal regulation of the plant makes doing anything on the national level very difficult, it’s all good up there in Justin Trudeau land.
Once Constellation Brands, makers of Corona beer, made a $4 billion deal with Canopy Growth (traded on the New York Stock Exchange as CGC) it was off to the races.
I did not invest in Canopy Growth because a quick image search of CEO Bruce Linton did not inspire confidence.
An interesting aspect of Canada’s marijuana rules are that the packaging has to adhere to very strict regulation, with very little advertising. This, it seems to me, presents kind of a Zen marketing challenge. How will one brand distinguish itself from another?
Blessedly I have kind of a Peter Lynch advantage here. From watching lots of Trailer Park Boys, I know that “BC Hydro” and marijuana from British Columbia is highly prized by the Canadian consumer. Even a low information Canadian marijuana consumer might know to ask for weed from British Columbia.
Tilray, traded on the NASDAQ as TLRY, is a respected marijuana grower based in Naniamo, British Columbia. Here is their respectable looking management team.
A few more observations:
- It is worth remembering our Charlie Munger here. Here he is talking in 2014 about why Berkshire Hathaway, the original textile company, was doomed:
The other rare example, of course, is Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire started with three failing companies: a textile business in New England that was totally doomed because textiles are congealed electricity and the power rates were way higher in New England than they were down in TVA country in Georgia. A totally doomed, certain-to-fail business.
In a way, marijuana itself is congealed electricity. I’m told power rates are cheapest in Ontario, where Canopy is based. And of course Medicine Hat, Alberta, is the sunniest city in Canada.
- I find it interesting and a testament to the world’s absurdity that if you had eight ounces of marijuana in New York City, the minimum jail sentence is three years, while down the street billions of dollars of shares of marijuana growers are being traded. Maybe Governor Cynthia Nixon will correct that imbalance. (Since I first discussed this on Twitter, Tilray’s stock went up 67%)
- If the President of the USA really cared about us defeating Canada, wouldn’t he work towards legalizing marijuana immediately, so that US companies could compete without Canada getting a jump on us?
- At first I thought legalized marijuana would end up being just like any commodity, like corn or something. But the technical know-how to extract and present CBD or THC as an oil or in something like a Dosist pen might give an advantage to companies with good processes. Note this picture of a laboratory on Tilray’s website:
- It’s my casual observation that a lot of very dumb bros, like guys who are too dumb to be in tech, are in the marijuana business. There’s something great about a field where many of your competitors will be dumb. (There are also many very, very smart people in this field.)
learned the origin of the word “drugs” from:
an intense book!
It was only when I came home from Peru, and started researching Amazonian shamanism, that I realised how different indigenous Amazonians’ conception of ayahuasca-healing can be. Westerners tend to think that emotional problems are caused by issues in our past, which ayahuasca can help us accept and integrate. Indigenous Amazonians (to generalise) are more likely to think emotional problems are caused by sorcery. You are out of sorts because you have been cursed by a secret enemy, or because you’ve offended a spirit. Ayahuasca will help you identify your hidden enemy, remove their curse, and get revenge.
cool article at Aeon by Jules Evans about whether our cultural assumptions are shaping our psychedelic experiences and leading us to misunderstand traditional uses.
More on this topic can be found in: